NTB invents news – there was no official Norwegian warning against Norwegian oil sector involvement in Israel

Lifted from miff.no

Background story: The NTB published an article regarding increased Norwegian investment in Israel offshore sector, claiming that the Norwegian Foreign Ministry had warned against such involvement in Israel. This NTB article was in turn picked up by several news outlets, I picked the one which was published in TV2 on May 8, which in addition mentions the report on Norwegian economic activity in Israel, issued by Norwegian People’s Aid and the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees. It now turns out that the NTB article which claims that the Norwegian MFA has warned Norwegian companies against involvement in offshore Israeli activities due to an unresolved maritime border dispute with Lebanon in reality is an invention of the NTB itself:

Norway has not warned against involvement in offshore Israel activities

The warning against Norwegian offshore engagement is constructed by the news agency NTB, and is based on policies written before Israel found gas. – NTB has added their own comments and opinions, an advisor at the Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv says.

By Conrad Myrland

Published: 05/21/2012, at. 12:21 pm Updated: 05/21/2012 at. 12:24 pm

Again we get a glaring example of how the news agency NTB operates with regards to Israel.
According to a headline in an article released by NTB on May 15 ” the Foreign Ministry warns against Norwegian oil investment in Israel.”  “The Foreign Ministry warns Norwegian companies against engaging in oil and gas exploration off the coast of Israel,” the introductory paragraph stated. Further down in the body of the article, the NTB claimed that “The Foreign Ministry has now issued a warning to the Norwegian companies involved in the area”.
NTB does not mention a with a word in their article that the major Israeli gas discoveries lie safely within the recognized Israeli maritime borders, away from the small sea area which is also claimed by Lebanon.
NTB’s case was picked up by TV2, Hegnar, Dagens Næringsliv and others. Klassekampen followed up with their own story.

MIFF commented on the matter on Sunday May 20:
Instead of creating noise regarding maritime border disputes, the Norwegian government should provide the best possible support and follow-up of Norwegian companies that wish to participate in the developing Israeli gas adventure. All of the major findings are clearly south of the disputed maritime areas, within the Israeli economic zone. It is very harmful for Norwegian interests that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (or the NTB?), instead of calming down troubled waters, gives the impression that the entire Israeli offshore initiative is problematic.
Now it turns out that our suspicions directed against NTB was entirely justified. The Foreign Ministry denies that they have issued any warnings to Norwegian companies involved in the Israeli offshore industry. The general warning against the activity in disputed areas, which the NTB bases its case on, was published on regjeringen.no  on January 21, 2008, long before the major Israeli gas discoveries were made in 2009 and 2010. This was also before the recent controversy over the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon flared up.

The Embassy rejects NTB’s  version
These details emerged in a dialogue with the Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv today.
Is it true that the Foreign Ministry and the Embassy have warned against all involvement within the Israeli economic zone, or only in areas that are contested by Lebanon? Has the NTB quoted the Norwegian Foreign Service correctly, when they portrayed it as a general warning?
– Norway has not issued a specific warning regarding Israel. Although it is not clear from the text clearly revealed in the case, the quotes by Ambassador Svein Sevje and the Foreign Ministry’s Communications advisor Kjetil Elsebutangen relate only to Norway’s general policy regarding disputed waters. The NTB has added its own comments and opinions, something they must be responsible for [MIFFs italics], Counsellor Vebjørn Dysvik responds.
We then understand that the NTB, on the basis of a general policy for disputed areas (anywhere in the world. M.McG), presents it a matter of fact that a warning against involvement in the Israeli offshore activity in general has been issued. Is this a representation of facts that the embassy regrets? Have you responded to the NTB who “added its own comments and opinions”?
– We have contented ourselves with supplying accurate information to those who contact us, Dysvik answers.

Created the wrong impression
The Norwegian Foreign service often claim that they have been misunderstood and subjected to unfair criticism from Israelis and pro-Israeli forces. Much of this could have been avoided if the MFA had been confronted the NTB more vigorously and challenged the news agency’s inaccurate and unfair treatment of Israel?
Now the damage has already been done. NTB’s false and inaccurate article was reproduced by a number of Norwegian uncritical newspapers, and  has created the impression that any Norwegian offshore activity in Israel is unwanted by the government. The Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Minister of Trade and Industry Trond Giske now have a job to do to prove otherwise.